Ice Fishing at a 45 Degree Angle
It's January, and the frozen hardtop of many a midwestern lake appears as peaceful and inviolable as a quaint country estate.
Perhaps a few anglers are frolicking about on the ice tossing a football or simply being social. Perhaps a Coleman Road Trip Grill teases the nostrils as the aroma of burgers or steaks wafts through the air. Perhaps an angler and his son share a laugh as they tug an Otter Sled filled with gear toward a promising part of the lake.
Don’t be fooled by this false sense of serenity. Inside those tents and icehouses, a darker world exists where anglers are frequently the victims of muggings and robberies that can occur at any time without any warning. Some are gang-related. Others are random acts of debauchery.
Either way, it can happen to you, if it hasn’t already.
Protect yourself. Fish with a 45.
Before we go any farther, let me explain. I’m not advocating some half-cocked vigilante style of glacial justice. I’m talking about the muggings and thefts that take place beneath the ice when fish swim up to an ice jig and either pull the bait free or whack the head of the jig instead of the business end.
After watching it happen on underwater cameras time and again, I decided to fight back. In fact, I was reminded of a country music tune by Hank Williams Jr. titled “A Country Boy Can Survive.” The lyrics include the lines, “I’d love to spit some Beech Nut in that dude’s eyes and shoot him with my old 45s ‘cause a country boy can survive.”
Thus, the concept of fishing with a 45. And while there are days when a well-placed bullet between a perch or bluegill’s eyes might seem justified, I’ve found that using specific jigs, knot placements and bait presentations that ride at a 45-degree angle is far less messy and will often put those fish in their place at the bottom of my bucket.
Fish tend to rise in the water column to bite a lure. What happens is that an ice jig tipped with live bait or a piece of Berkley Gulp! or a Power Wiggler ends up hanging at more of a 90-degree angle when it’s actively jigged for awhile. So, as the fish rises up to take the bait, it’s easy for it to grab only the bait and miss the hook.
If a jig is hanging at a 45-degree angle, it’s a lot more difficult for a fish to come from below and grab hold of just the bait. The idea is to adjust your presentation so that the first thing the fish comes into contact with is the hook.
Keep in mind that different lures are designed to fish at different angles.
Presenting a lure at a 45-degree angle can be accomplished by simply using a “tight” knot such as a Trilene, Palomar or improved-clinch knot and making sure it’s situated correctly on the lure’s eye. With the knot positioned properly, horizontal jigs such as Lindy Fat Boys or Genz Worms or one of Northland Tackle’s new Bro Bugs or Forage Minnow fry jigs will hang at a 45, making them deadly. Make sure to check both the knot position and how the jig is riding after every fish, strike or hook-set that could alter the jigs angle.
Other lures that can be fished at a 45-degree angle are vertical styles such as Lindy’s Techni-Glo Frostees or Northland’s Super-Glo Doodle Bugs. When those are the lures the fish want, adjust the knot so the line angles back toward the hook point at 45 degrees. This knot position should cause the jig to ride at a 45-degree angle in the water.
Perhaps the best way to fish with a 45 is to use a lure specifically designed to fish at a 45-degree angle. The answer is: Lindy’s new Genz Bug, a lure with a 45-degree angle hook so it rides at 45 degrees naturally. Fishing the WildSide’s Chip Leer recommends Northland’s Ghost Grub as another option that is designed to keep the business end in business.
If these options don’t result in more hook-ups, try switching from live bait to artificial bait such as Gulp! maggots and grubs or Power Wigglers that aren’t as easy to pull free from the hook. If you’re still a victim of the “bit and spit” routine, hooking your bait through the center rather than the head (t-boning) will often work, as will loading the hook with multiple baits.
Don’t get mugged in your ice tent this winter. Stick to your guns. Fish with a 45 and take a bite out of crime.
Editors Note: Fishing the WildSide On Ice, co-founded by Tommy Skarlis and Chip Leer, is an extensive effort focused on generating excitement for the great sport of ice fishing.